SHARJAH — Saudi Arabia’s FIFA World Cup qualification celebrations were slightly muted on Thursday evening as Herve Renard’s side were forced to share a 1-1 draw with Chinain Sharjah in their Group B of AFC Asian Qualifiers Road to Qatar clash after a late penalty from Zhu Chenjie.

Saleh Al Shehri put the Saudis, who had been confirmed as qualifying for the FIFA World Cup due to Japan’s win over Australia earlier in the day, in front in first half injury time before Zhu’s 82nd minute spot kick levelled the scores.

As a result the Japanese will go into Tuesday’s final round of matches with a one point lead over Saudi Arabia with Australia in third spot. China remain in fifth with the draw moving them onto six points from nine games.

Saudi Arabia dictated the tempo throughout the 90 minutes, spending much of the first half camped out in Chinese territory but for all their dominance they were unable to find a way past a packed, disciplined defence.

Hattan Bahebri dragged his effort wide of the target from the edge of the area a quarter of an hour into the game while Bahebri was off target again in the 28th minute, sending an attempt over the bar.

Salem Al Dawsari was reduced to also trying his luck from the edge of the area as the Saudis met a Chinese wall of resistance, with his effort also off target.

It took until the first minute of injury time before the Saudis took the lead. Salman Al Faraj’s corner found Al Shehri as he drifted towards the near post, and the striker cleverly glanced a header that flew across Yan Junling and nestled into the far corner of the goal.

Renard’s team sought to build on their lead with Ahmed Sharahili missing a golden opportunity 13 minutes after the restart when he pulled the ball wide of Yan Junling’s goal after being found with time and space by Al Shehri’s cutback.

Al Dawsari went closer still six minutes later when he charged through the Chinese midfield, evading Zhang Linpeng’s slashing challenge before unleashing a curling effort that Yan pushed away for a corner at full stretch.

The Saudis had rarely been troubled but, with time running out, Li Xiaopeng’s side were awarded a penalty when the ball struck Abdulelah Al Amri on the hand. Zhu stepped up to confidently claim his first international goal and earn his side a point. 

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